Jesus is the Great I AM.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM!
That is the last verse of the popular Christmas song Mary Did You Know and it ends with the outrageous claim that the baby Mary holds in her arms is the great I AM! That claim is outrageous no matter how you look at it. If it is false, it is an outrageous heresy and deserves harsh condemnation. If true, however, it is no less outrageous to imagine “I AM” humbling Himself as a helpless little baby.
What is the significance of the name “I AM”?
In one of the most famous passages in all of the Bible, hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush, calling him to go free the enslaved Israelite people in Egypt. “God called to him out of the bush saying I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses asked God, “What is [your] his name?” God responded by saying, “I am who I am . . . tell them that I am has sent you” (Exodus 3).
“I AM” is the ultimate expression of self-sufficiency and self-existence.
God identified Himself to Moses simply as “I AM”, but that name is far from simple. “I AM” is the ultimate expression of self-sufficiency and self-existence. God is not dependent on any overarching authority nor on any undergirding support. Nothing is before Him and nothing comes after Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last. He had no beginning and He will have no end. He is outside of time. He is outside of the entire created universe. Nothing is above or beyond Him and nothing contains Him.
God is. That is worth repeating . . . GOD IS . . . period. “I AM” has to be the shortest but the most profound, compelling, all-encompassing, and stunning description given to any being ever. In just two English words totaling three English letters the absolute reality of God is captured in a paradox of mind-blowing simplicity.
If the concept of God being “I AM” is difficult to grasp, how much more difficult is it to imagine Him as a baby in a mother’s arms?
Is Jesus the great “I AM”?
Two of the most compelling stories of Jesus take place in John’s Gospel. In chapter 8 Jesus claims to be the “Light of the world” and that leads to a debate with the Pharisees over his identity. That conversation crescendos to one of the most earthshaking declarations made by Jesus when he says to them:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” John 8:58
The Pharisees understood exactly what Jesus meant using that sacred and revered title to equate Himself with God and they quickly picked up stones to execute Him.
In a separate event, on the night of His arrest, Jesus is approached by a group of soldiers sent to bring Him to trial and He asks them,
“Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:4-6)
Those hardened soldiers drew back and fell to the ground before Jesus when He said “I am he”. Why? Perhaps it was because the words Jesus spoke were “ego eimi” and in the Greek that literally means “I AM”. It was as if, for one moment, all those around Jesus caught a glimpse of His true identity and they fell flat on their faces in surrender to His great name . . . I AM.
It is not only the Gospel of John that records those bold statements. Both in Mark’s and Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on the water Jesus answers the frightened disciples on the boat by saying,
“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50, Matt 14:27).
Once more “It is I” literally means “I AM”. Is there a more fitting time to declare Jesus the great “I AM” than when He stands over, outside, and in control of all nature as He defies its laws and commands its obedience?
The exact same Greek words (ego eimi) meaning “I AM” are used for all of those stories – when Jesus claims to be “ego eimi” to the Pharisees, when he answers the soldiers “ego eimi” on the night of His arrest, and when he identifies Himself to the disciples as “ego eimi” as He walked on the water.
Jesus is the Great I AM.
Jesus is the Great I AM. He is the self-sufficient and self-existent One. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
What kind of love is this? What kind of humility? How can it be that God would come as a child to die for His children?
That is the miracle of Christmas . . . Emmanuel God with us . . . the Great I AM has come. Celebrate with great joy this season, and if you haven’t already, accept the gift that has been given for you!